16th Century, Costumes, Juan de Alcega Tailor's Pattern Book, Living History, Research, Undergarments

Juan de Alcega Tailor’s Pattern Book: Manteo or a skirt of cloth

I’m in need of a new underskirt or petticoat for my 16th century clothing. I’ve been using the same cotton broadcloth one I made back in 2005, for years now. It is serviceable, but it adds a lot of bulk at the waist and it isn’t very authentic in construction or materials.

So it is time to for a new one.

I have 3.5 yards of a lovely wine colored, lightweight worsted wool donated to me by Noel. (Thank you Noel! <3 )

I’ll be drafting the pattern on the fabric and  hand sewing the whole thing with linen thread.


wine red wool and thread


I’m working from the Spanish version of Alcega’s Book. The english translation is out-of-print and painfully expensive. I’m not a native nor fluent spanish speaker so google and a few other resources will be heavily used.

I’m using the translated chart of symbols from the tailors book into modern inches from the Curious Frau’s site.

Taking some inspiration from Other Andrew’s The Alcega Project.

And keeping in mind the information  of the Modern Maker has posted about his study of the patterns on his blog and on the Elizabethan Costume Facebook group.



Definition from “Nuevo diccionario portatil, espanol e ingles: compuesto segun los mejore…

Manteo: s, m : a church man’s cloke; a woman’s under petticoat.

Language is a fluid thing, always changing. The above definition is from 1728 far later than the 16th century. However even later dictionaries simply list it as a cloak or mantle. Context is key, when it is listed as Manteo de Muger, chances are it is a skirt.

 Some mentions of manteos from women’s wills and inventories *:

My rough translations are in italics.

“un mateo de buelta del mismo damasco con dos bordaduras de tela de oro y plata”
An underskirt of the same damask with 2 borders/embroidery? of silver and gold

“un manteo de grana biejo”
An old scarlet/red underskirt

“un manteo de paño açul con unas tiras de brocatel biejo doce reales”
An old blue underskirt of cloth with one strip of brocade worth 12 reales

“un manteo azul biejo”
An old blue underskirt

Pattern Layout

Manteo de pano para muger

16th century Spanish: Manteo de paño para muger –  Woman’s skirt of cloth 66 long by 66 wide.

The first line of the pattern, “para cortar un faldellín de muger..” very roughly translates to: “to cut a woman’s petticoat of 2 baras of cloth..” it then goes on to describe how much cloth is needed in length and width, and after that I can pick out a few other words. All I’m interested in right now is the patterns shapes and length.

Manteo de pano para muger_puttogether

After a bit of photoshop we get this. If cut on the fold we get a skirt with only one main seam in the back.

Measurements using the chart:

bs = 38 1/2 inches

mo = 20 5/8 inches

Total waist measurement is 41 1/4

For comparison I’ve included the layouts and measurements for other skirts listed in the tailor’s book.

The next three patterns are for faldellín de muger, in cloth, a narrow cloth, and silk. These are all cut similar to the pattern above.

Faldellin de muger

Faldellín de muger has a length of bq = 41 1/4

Faldellín de paño angosto ( a skirt of narrow cloth?) has a waist of mm(?) 33 total 66 if cut on the fold, and a length of bs 38 1/2



vasquina sola de seda para muger

Vasquiña sola de seda para muger – Women’s skirt of silk – fabric width 22 inches wide

vasquina sola de seda para muger put together The vasquiña pattern has a length of bm – 49 1/2, the front waist is t – 11 and the back waist is m – 16 1/2. That makes for a total waist measurement of 54 inches. That is a bit fuller than the previous skirts and would require more pleating.

The other vasquiña patterns that follow in the book all have the same length.

vasquina y cuerpo baxo de raxa

Two other layouts for vasquiña y cuerpo baxo de seda follow, they have the length of bm 49 1/2

The pattern changes with the vasquiña y cuerpo baxo de raxa, (the pattern layout I usually base my kirtles on) the skirt length is back to bq – 41 1/2 inches. The skirt waist, which I mistook at first as MM may actually be Miij.

So going in the order of the book we have:

Manteo: 38 1/2 inches long

Faldellín: 41 1/4 inches long

Vasquiña: 49 1/2 inches long

Vasquiña y cuerpo baxo: (silk and cloth) 49 1/2 inches long

Vasquiña y cuerpo baxo of raxa: 41 1/2 inches long

Soon to follow, part 2 will be cutting and making the skirt!

* Links to the wills and inventories

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